Red Wolves win 1-0 in league home opener

Red Wolves win 1-0 in league home opener

April 7th, 2019 by Patrick MacCoon in Sports - Professional

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC midfielder Conor Doyle, right, goes against Forward Madison FC's Jeff Michaud during Saturday night's game at Chattanooga Christian School. The Red Wolves won 1-0 for their first USL League One victory.

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC midfielder Conor Doyle, right,...

Photo by Patrick MacCoon

As Alex Mangels defended his home net with lockdown authority, the Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club goalkeeper and his teammates were spurred by the "buzz" of their home crowd.

With 3,527 spectators for the USL League One club's first official home match Saturday night, a dominant defensive showing led to a 1-0 victory over Forward Madison FC at Chattanooga Christian School's David Stanton Field.

"The atmosphere, the noise and turnout was amazing," Red Wolves coach Tim Hankinson said. "I was trying to communicate at the top of my lungs over on the sideline, and the guys can't hear me because of the buzz. I salute the fans. Mangels played flawlessly, too."

A week after a high-pressing attack let two major mistakes determine a road loss to North Texas SC in their opener, a more patient approach worked wonders for the Red Wolves.

Mangels turned away a one-one-one opportunity in the first half, and after the break he reeled in a dangerous header and dove to his left in the 79th minute to make another of his four saves. The back line of Richard Dixon, Andrew Moullin, Leo Folla and Vangjel Zguro in front of him was just as stellar.

"The boys did a fantastic job putting their bodies on the line," Mangels said. "Everyone came out and did what we are here to do. We handled everything thrown at us. Our fans packed this place, and it felt like they were right on top of us. The noise at the end was unreal. It's a good sign for games to come."

Dixon provided a key steal and a clean slide tackle in stoppage time, while Folla shone in his first start at center back as he won several duels and made strong clearances. Moullin and Zguro displayed intensity as well.

Moullin made a diving slide tackle to prevent a high-percentage chance in the box in the 18th minute, and even forward Steven Beattie stepped in late to provide one of the Red Wolves' five blocked shots.

Zguro drew applause from the crowd in the first half, too, as he battled with an attacker from the far right post all the way to the right sideline to win possession and pass the ball forward.

The Red Wolves (1-1) got all they needed offensively in the 67th minute as 35-year-old attacker Eamon Zayed placed a high kick from the far right of the box into the back left corner. Zayed pointed up to the sky and celebrated with teammates and the fans after his historic goal.

"For Eamon to bring the club that reward of the first goal at home in team history is special," Hankinson said. "I have seen him play in a lot of big games and score a lot of big goals. Tonight was no different."

Zayed set the tone offensively for the Red Wolves, finishing with four shots.

Forward Madison (0-1) had an 11-6 shots margin and had possession for 67 percent of the game, but the Wisconsin team was blunted by a defensive blockade.

"Our players put their bodies on the line," Hankinson said. "Our opponent had trouble figuring out how to break us down. We survived the rush late, and that's how you win games. This is a great start, and we look forward to getting back here in a couple of weeks."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.


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